It was last summer that Vicki Matthew and her husband Robin Pearson decided to gather up baseball equipment to take to La Manzanilla, Mexico, a small fishing village about four hours south of Puerto Vallarta.
The local couple have been spending the winters there for four years now and have become part of the local community.
As reported in The News Oct. 28, 2011, Robin partnered with his friend and neighbour, who took the equipment down in his truck.
“We also gathered, thanks to the article in the PQB News, a huge sports bag full of gloves.”
The equipment arrived in La Manzanilla in mid-November and the two arrived in January to see a program well underway, “with kids who were better outfitted than before, and who now have bases to run to (they were using bricks and pieces of old carpet), and now, gloves to catch the ball in … enough for two teams.”
Vicki said when the ball program first got started by Canadian Patti Wagoner “who mentioned she played ball and had a bat, and four kids suddenly showed up at her door all enthusiastic to learn the game.”
As the story goes, she managed, with broken Spanish, to teach those few kids a bit about the grand old game, and, the next time, not long after that, 10 kids showed up at her door.
“It burgeoned from there,” said Vicki, explaining that not long after their gear arrived their donation was matched by a coach and owner of a local restaurant who used to play baseball on the Puerto Rican national team. A Powell River musician, has also started helping along with many other “Gringos.”
Robin, Vicki said, has been helping with practices and officiating.
“He’s developing a relationship with the kids that is very satisfying,” said Vicki, who is helping with the organization of the equipment, “and the cleaning and sewing thereof … this project is ongoing and we are having a great deal of fun working with the kids.”
The kids, she said, “play on what would look like a vacant lot to us in Canada, but is actually the soccer field. It is dusty and hot, but that’s not important because they are learning the game and are having a great deal of fun.”
Since they’ve arrived, she said the kids “are well outfitted, with plenty of bats, balls, jerseys, bases, and gloves. We did have to sew some of the jerseys, donated by the Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association (PGOSA), down to size for the littler guys, but they now have jerseys that fit (sort of).”
In the meantime, “look out,” she said, “because this summer we’ll be back in Oceanside looking for shoes … running shoes, cleats, anything for their feet.
“Half the team plays in bare feet and the other half in flip flops! We do hope to do some fundraising to support a backstop, eventually, and maybe even dugouts.”
Vicki said the main thing she wants to convey “is that there are 25-plus kids (both boys and girls) who are enjoying the heck out of playing. The “Gringos” and the Mexicans are working together which is a strengthener for this community, which is pretty close anyway. There is a sense of joy on that field and a camaraderie that spills into the town.
“As we walk down the street we are greeted by our little prodigies and their wonderful, happy smiles.”